Earlier this year, during our before school professional development staff meetings, we discussed the accelerated shift of our students as a school. We also took some to explore student achievement from year level to the next. It was evident that our students were continuing to make accelerated progress in Writing but not in Reading and Mathematics. Due to this finding, we determined that within these two subject areas was the current challenge for our students.
Over the past few years, we have discussed the acquisition of vocabulary as a common thread for building self-efficacy and understanding for our students across the subject areas. When looking at my Year 7/8 Maths students, it is definitely a case of low self-efficacy holding them back. However, I don't believe that the struggle is always with the process of problem solving as much as it is with understanding of the question and the explicit explanation of their computational process.
They often think they know how to "show" you their mathematical thinking but they do not have the necessary age level vocabulary to explain their computational thinking step by step. For example, when describing how to solve a problem similar to 486 + 245= students commonly respond with something like "Oh! You're plussing" instead of explaining step by step how to use addition to add the two numbers together using place value. While this example is a basic one, it is important to realise that at some point students need to be exposed to and begin using the correct mathematical terms when problem solving.